From Roland Hanna’s self-assured opening piano solo to Garnett Brown’s alternately playful and virtuoso leads on trombone to the majestic and awe-inspiring swing of all four sections of the band cooking at the same time, “Ah, That’s Freedom” (written by Thad Jones’ brother Hank) shows off the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra in full command of its considerable powers, just one year into its residency as the Village Vanguard’s house band.
They say that freedom is a constant struggle, but “Ah, That’s Freedom” says something different: the struggle for freedom may be constant, but freedom itself is joyful, relaxed, swinging, expressive, confident, liberation.
Outsourcing today’s music commentary on “Don’t Shoot”, the all-star hip-hop response to Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson to the remarkable Rembert Browne:
This isn’t a cohesive song by any stretch — which seems appropriate. It’s 10 different people expressing 10 different points of view, 10 different feelings colliding. It’s a parallel to what’s actually happening in and related to Ferguson, a unified cause that lacks a unified voice. A multitude of opinions, concise and vague, calm and angry, peaceful and aggressive, emotional and practical, researched and unfounded. And a group of people sharing a common desire, but without any clear consensus on how to react. Or what to do.
The song is simply a louder, more well-polished “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” sign. Or in some cases, “Shoot Back.” And even with ever-lingering cynicism about the origins, the motives, and the players involved, the presentation is representative. It’s imperfect. And one of the reasons hip-hop is important is because of its imperfections. It’s emotional. It jumps to conclusions. And it often echoes your most unrefined, raw, original thoughts and, responsibly or not, broadcasts them for all to hear.
A regular reader writes, “I think this satisfies your First Rule of Cover Songs*, no?“.
Why, yes. Yes, in fact it does.
Covering one of James Brown’s signature songs is one thing. Covering it with an orchestral quintet that includes harp and cello is another thing entirely. (And having a room-filling voice like Broadway star Morgan James just puts it over the top.)
*You’ve got to bring something new to it.
With the utterly appalling news today* that the luxurious Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square will unveil a “Rathskellar Suite” to honor the memory of Boston’s legendary punk club (known during its heyday as simply, “The Rat“), and to make obscene profits by charging $1,095/night for the suite’s “Backstage Pass” package, here’s a far better memorial to The Rat: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “I Want My City Back”.
Up around 95, sailing down Storrow Drive, left exit into Kenmore Square,
Slowed down when I got there, and that’s when it was crystal clear;
It wasn’t there, it wasn’t where I left it, when I left it;
I want my city back, back the way it used to be;
I want it back the way it was.
*Best paragraph of the Globe’s article:
“If they’re going to catch the true essence of the Rat, then it has to be a horrible room,” said Dicky Barrett, frontman of the Boston-based Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who played, and was thrown out of, the Rat dozens of times. It would reek of cigarette smoke and urine and vomit, he said, and have a bashed-in toilet, in honor of the one that was destroyed by rowdy patrons so many times that the owner finally boarded it up.